22 Sep 20

Victory Parade: How BMW's Max Guenther made the top step for the first time in Season 6

The 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship saw some fresh faces get their hands on the winners' Moet & Chandon champagne and make their way onto the top step of the podium. Next up, Formula E's 15th, and youngest, winner: Max Guenther.

The sixth season of Formula E represented a big leap forward for young Max Guenther. The 23-year-old moved to BMW i Andretti Motorsport over the prior off-season, having completed 10 of 13 races in 2018/19 with GEOX Dragon.

Back to Bavaria

Any young German offered the opportunity to drive for one of the country's sporting powerhouses would find the move hard to resist. Guenther, then, saw the move back into the Bavarian giant's stable as a massive opportunity, doubly-so given the team's promising first campaign in the electric street racing championship in which it was heavily involved in the title fight thanks to the man he would replace, Antonio Felix da Costa.

"BMW i Andretti Motorsport had a strong maiden season in Formula E, won the very first race and was involved in the fight for the title down to the wire," said Gunther at the time. 

"That is why this switch is definitely a fantastic step for me. It is great to compete for BMW again. That's where everything started for me in single-seater racing in 2011 (in the Formula BMW Talent Cup)."

Highlights: 2020 Antofagasta Minerals Santiago E-Prix

Staying cool in the Chile heat

BMW's season got off to a flier in Diriyah, but unfortunately for Guenther, more so on the other side of the garage with Alexander Sims, as the Brit flew to a maiden victory in Formula E whilst the German failed to tally a point.

Guenther wouldn't have to wait long to make amends, however, and with clear pace in the car already demonstrated handily by his team-mate back at the season-opening double-header in Saudi Arabia, Guenther hit the ground running in Chile at Round 3.

He lined up second on the grid behind Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) but lost ground off the line in battle with Pascal Wehrlein - the Mahindra Racing driver making his way past at Turn 1. 

The slip to third and the final podium position was as much of a struggle as Guenther faced in the opening third of the race, with the team taking the opportunity to manage his pace and available energy with high temperatures at Parque O'Higgins in Santiago proving a factor - as was the potential for the race to run on an extra lap as simulator sessions had indicated to some, but not all, teams.

Heading into the final third of the encounter, Guenther had a little more usable energy in hand than those around and in-front of him thanks to his team's foresight and his consistent pace early on. Come lap 17, the BMW driver had retaken second from Wehrlein and set about leader Evans - passing the Jaguar just a lap later through the everlasting Turn 8.

Once in the clear, he extended his margin before being reigned in once again by his team given the gap and the additional pace he was able to extract from the package as opposed to his rivals, who appeared to need to push harder to keep in-touch with the German.

Da Costa (DS Techeetah) did make it by Guenther after a late onslaught, crowning a scything journey through the pack from 10th on the grid. Ambient temperatures, however, were such that the Portuguese driver's battery began to run close to its 72 degrees Celsius operating limit, with DS and da Costa pushing their luck a little too far having been embroiled in conflict throughout the race.

That allowed Guenther to poach first with a dose of ATTACK MODE, once again at Turn 8, on the final lap - making him the youngest winner in Formula E history at 22-years-old.

“It was a dream come true," he said. "It was an incredible feeling to take the first win of my Formula E career in Santiago. Second place in qualifying was superb. Having not made a great start on the dirty side of the track, which cost me a position, we used ATTACK MODE very cleverly to allow me to take the lead. 

"In the heat, it was also important to keep an eye on the temperature of the batteries. We did that really well. On the final lap, Antonio had to coast a little earlier than me on the straight. I thought to myself ‘now or never’ and went for the overtake. Fortunately, it came off.”

"It is incredible how maturely and coolly Max drove in only his third Formula E race for our team," added Jens Marquardt, BMW Group Motorsport Director. "He more than deserved the first Formula E win of his career and the title of ‘youngest Formula E winner ever’. 

"He and the team kept a cool head, particularly in the dramatic closing stages, and judged the situation correctly. We reckoned that Antonio could have cooling problems, and that is exactly what happened. That correct appraisal allowed Max to pull off the fantastic overtaking manoeuvre on the final lap.

Formula E's next big star?

After the breakthrough

Guenther wasn't able to follow up with points in Mexico City next time out, but did manage second in Marrakesh which was good enough to lift him into fourth in the Drivers' standings just 23 points shy of leader da Costa ahead of the enforced mid-season break.

Upon Formula E's return for its nine-day six-race season finale in Berlin, anything looked possible with teams and drivers enduring a long hiatus. Guenther was as well-placed as anybody but two none-scores in Rounds 6 and 7 knocked his chances into touch.

He fought back with a well-earned victory in the third race for a real moment of pride on home soil, representing a German giant in BMW. He led home Envision Virgin Racing's Robin Frijns by just a tenth-of-a-second.

That win proved to be his only Tempelhof highlight, with two more DNFs and a 12th placed finish leaving him ninth in the Drivers' Championship once the final chequered flag had fallen.

Guenther will continue with the team for Season 7 as team and driver look to build race-winning pace into championship-winning consistency.

Victory Parade: A look at 2019/20's first-time race winners: Alex Sims' Diriyah triumph